Benjamin Franklin's saying about death and taxes being life's only certainties has not been true here for the last nine years.

That's because there have been no taxes -- at least no city taxes.

Barton, which had 34 residents and a handful of dogs the last time a head count was taken, has not required residents to pay for city services since 1970.

But the free lunch is over.

Even with the city auditor working for free, the local weight-reduction club handling the city park for a pittance, and council members receiving $3 a meeting if they want it (most haven't), inflation has taken over.

A city levy was on the December tax statements.

For nine years, Barton was shining example of what could be done with that "old spirit" that spawned the likes of such things as threshing bees. The spirit isn't dead, but the tax immunity is.

Needed to make ends meet is $600 a year. With 15 households and a bar sharing the load, it won't mean any financial pinch. But it will mean the end of an era that has made Barton residents proud.

"Realistically, we probably should have done this a few years ago," said the auditor, Mrs. Adolph Bye, who donates her time and her kitchen table with the city books.

The city has been operating off the interest of a $5,000 gift from H. H. Schamel's estate. The city also had to dip into the gift by $1,500.

"It was depleting so we figured we should save it just in case of any unexpected expenses," Bye said.

Barton has its regular expenses.

It must pay for electricity used on its 14 street lights. "That totals $56 a month," Bye said.

It pays the weight-reduction club, TOPS, to keep the park clean, the nearby, Rugby Fire Department for assistance to its own volunteer group, insurance, weed spraying and other incidentals.

And, there was a major capital expense this past year. An electrical heater was purchased to make sure the city's fire truck wouldn't freeze up in the winter.

In the last fiscal year, all these were handled for about $1,800.

Besides, the gift, the city was handling its bills with state highway and cigarette tax money and the $250 it receives for the liquor license.

With that revenue, a willingness to pitch in and an ability to strangle, not just pinch, pennies, Barton has gotten by.

There is one benefit of levying taxes. Now, Barton will receive federal revenue sharing again.

But, alas, the amount expected probably won't be enough to pay for a month's worth of street lighting.